Google Acquires Streaming Music Service

Google is the latest technology company to enter the increasingly competitive streaming music business with its purchase of Songza Media. Although terms of the deal were not released, Google is said to be spending at least $15 million for Songza Media, which differentiated itself from competitors via its human curation and custom playlists based on time of day and activities. Google, which has several music services, will offer Songza as a stand-alone product. The streaming music market is fraught with challenges beyond just attracting customers, such as licensing content, but has proven attractive to tech companies. For example, Apple purchased Beats Electronics in May 2014. And Twitter is reportedly in talks with the privately-owned SoundCloud, which is valued at $700 million. (Businessweek -- 1)(Businessweek -- 2)(The San Jose Mercury News)

Wireless Network-on-a-Chip Increases Throughput, Reduces Power Consumption

Researchers have developed a wireless network-on-a-chip that promises to boost data rates while cutting energy consumption. The Washington State University scientists say the chips could reduce energy consumption at huge data farms by as much as 20 percent. A significant problem in multicore chips typically used in datacenters is that the data moves in numerous hops through the cores, which makes transmissions slower and uses considerable energy. The Washington State design uses direct wireless links between all cores to increase throughput and reduce energy consumption. Each processor has what the researchers call a miniature cell tower system, as well as antennas and a tiny, low-power transceiver. The chip—which has 4 billion transistors—is reportedly among the world’s smallest and most efficient. The researchers are refining a prototype now. Their work, funded by the US National Science Foundation and Army Research Office, appears in the ACM Journal on Emerging Technologies in Computing Systems. (Washington State University)(ACM Journal on Emerging Technologies in Computing Systems)

Nanoparticles Help Keep Devices Cool

As computers and other electronic devices continue to run faster, they are increasingly susceptible to overheating, which can make them slow down or fail. A new nanoparticle-infused liquid promises to help keep these devices cool. University of Malaya and Universiti Brunei Darussalam researchers investigated several nanofluids—using a microchannel heat sink to simulate an electronic system—to determine the best for the task. They considered factors such as heat transfer, energy loss, and friction. The scientists found that all their nanofluids performed better than water and that the best was a mix of copper oxide and water. The researchers published their findings in the American Chemical Society journal Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research. (EurekAlert)(Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research)

EU Clears Telefónica Purchase of German Carrier

In the latest example of European telecommunications consolidation, EU regulators have approved Telefónica’s bid to purchase Dutch telecommunications company KPN’s German mobile company E-Plus for €8.6 billion ($11.6 billion). The new company will be Germany's largest mobile operator by customers with a 31 percent market share. To gain regulatory approval of its E-Plus purchase and address concerns about possible excessive market dominance, Telefónica agreed to sell some of its 2.1- and 2.6-GHz radio spectrum and rent its 4G network capacity to other mobile virtual network operators. Market analysts say the purchase could encourage similar deals under discussion in France, Italy, and Spain. The market in Europe is rapidly consolidating as telecommunications companies try to reverse declining revenues and improve their infrastructures. (Reuters)(The New York Times)

US Venture Capitalist Wins Seized Bitcoins

Venture capitalist Tim Draper submitted the winning bid in a US Marshals Service auction of bitcoins seized from the Silk Road, a controversial underground website allegedly involved in drug dealing. Draper paid $18 million for 30,000 bitcoins that formerly belonged to Silk Road, which the FBI shut down in 2013. More than 40 people participated in the recent auction. Draper will reportedly use the virtual currency in partnership with the Vaurum bitcoin exchange. (Reuters)(Tech Crunch)(Vaurum)

Rackspace Set to Go Private

Publicly-traded cloud-services provider Rackspace Hosting says it is considering going private and is in discussions with a private equity firm regarding financing the move, according to technology-news website Tech Crunch. The company had been for sale, but without a deal, it may now be acting as if it wants to go private to pressure potential buyers such as telecommunications provider CenturyLink, Hewlett-Packard, and IBM. Rackspace told Reuters and Tech Crunch it “does not comment on rumors and speculation.” Rackspace, currently valued at $6.1 billion, has faced increasing competition from big companies that provide cloud and hosting services, such as Amazon and Google. “The pressures of being a public company are too much,” a Rackspace source told Tech Crunch. (Reuters)(Tech Crunch)

Microsoft Joins Internet-of-Things Open Source Consortium

Microsoft will be working with a consortium that is developing an open source code framework for device-to-device communications integral to the Internet of Things. Known as The AllSeen Alliance, the Linux Foundation-led group consists of several large vendors that support AllJoyn, open source code for the Internet of Things that Qualcomm originally developed. AllJoyn would provide a universal software framework and a set of core services that would enable interoperability among connected products and software applications across manufacturers. Other AllSeen Alliance members include Cisco Systems, D-Link, LG Electronics, Panasonic, and Sharp. Observers speculate Microsoft is joining to further its home-automation technologies and expand the Xbox game system’s capabilities. (SlashDot)(Computerworld)(PC World)(AllSeen Alliance)

Researchers: Computer-Based Deep Learning Is Essential for Physics Exploration

Deep learning can improve physicists’ ability to explore and discover subatomic particles, according to a new paper by the University of California, Irvine (UCI), scientists. They say computer-driven deep learning can help solve fundamental physics questions. Finding elusive particles such as the Higgs boson requires sifting through massive datasets from particle accelerators and other sources. Machine learning techniques—in which systems learn from information they process, rather than just follow explicitly programmed instructions—can keep scientists from having to write large amounts of code to analyze their data. The UCI researchers built a machine-learning system that increased particle detection by 8 percent over previous approaches. They published their findings in the journal Nature Communications. (EurekAlert)(University of California - Irvine)(Nature Communications)

Bostonians Getting a Charge out of Park Benches

The humble park bench in the city of Boston is getting a makeover. The city is working with the MIT Media Lab spinoff company Changing Environments to turn the seats into solar-powered charging stations known as Soofas. The benches—which will appear in Titus Sparrow Park, the Boston Common, and the Rose Kennedy Greenway—will also collect data on, for example, ambient air quality and noise levels. Ongoing testing is scheduled to occur on the Babson College and at MIT campuses. (Daily Tech)(The City of Boston)

New Metamaterial Nanostructure Shows Promise in Optical Processing

US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) researchers are working with a nanostructure able to let light travel in one direction but not in another. Their one-way metamaterial could be used in optical information processing, in photonic chips as well as in biosensing applications. Until now, there was no way to make structures small enough to enable the one-way transmission of visible light. The NIST researchers used computer simulation to develop a multilayered block of alternating thin silver and silicon-dioxide glass sheets and metal grates with extremely narrow spacing, designed to block light traveling in one direction. The researchers published their work in the journal Nature Communications. (EurekAlert)(National Institute of Standards and Technology)(Nature Communications)

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